Green Bean art celebrates student voices and shows an ‘inner world’

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Pacita Del Balso's (senior) art displayed at the Green Bean in Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 21, 2022. Alexia Lara/The Occidental

The Green Bean is full of student life, music humming and baristas buzzing with orders for caffeinated drinks. Run by students, it has been an Occidental campus study spot since its opening in 2009. The walls feature polaroids of baristas and student artwork. One artist is Pacita Del Balso (senior), who has had two pieces on display since April.

Del Balso said her favorite of the two is about rebirth and life cycles called “Globes.” She said she likes to think art has the potential to make people think about things differently, or come to new realizations.

“I think it’s nice to have a touch of students’ influence on how our campus looks and as a way to raise up student voices,” Del Balso said. “It has the power to impact people.”

Pacita Del Balso’s (senior) art displayed at the Green Bean in Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 21, 2022. Alexia Lara/The Occidental

Another featured artist, Theodore Tang (junior), has had his photography posted in the Green Bean since the end of the Spring 2022 semester.

“Seeing it be there gives myself a lot of confidence and also shows me that, ‘Oh, okay, I have the ability to actually exhibit my works,'” Tang said. “It just proves my ability in art.”

Neither Del Balso nor Tang are art majors. Tang said he wanted to be a photographer before coming to Occidental, but he has fears about the lack of financial security in the industry.

“Originally I was too afraid, like, ‘Are people going to judge me for what I put up there if it’s not good enough?‘” Tang said. “But nobody cares that much. Just put it up there. It really feels good to see your stuff on the wall, and it contributes to the community by putting yourself out there and letting others see you. It creates a deeper bond between you and the place.”

Nellie Farrow ’19 said she had her work on display in 2019.

“It’s cool to see what your peers are working on and making,” Farrow said. “A little bit into their inner world. It’s kind of like having your kid’s artwork on the fridge. We’re decorating the space with stuff made by people in the community, so it feels more homey, or more community oriented in that way.”

One of the supervisors at the Green Bean, Nicole Schwyn (senior), is on her second semester working in the space. The Green Bean is inclusive because it is student-run and student-managed, Schwyn said.

“There’s been some more political or political-adjacent pieces that are also really interesting,” Schwyn said. “I think all the pieces are interesting because, in one way or another, they’re connected to the student that’s showing them. Whether it’s showing off a piece of how they view the world or what motivates them to do their art.”

Art displayed at the Green Bean in Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 21, 2022. Alexia Lara/The Occidental

Schwyn said she sees art in general as imitating life and giving a voice to marginalized voices.

“It can be used to say, ‘I am here. I deserve to be here,'” Schwyn said.

*Del Balso worked for The Occidental as a staff writer.

*Tang worked for The Occidental as a photographer.

Contact Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@oxy.edu.